Review: Junk (2016) by M83

The inspiration for Junk, says M83 frontman Anthony Gonzalez, was 1970s and 1980s TV shows. This may seem like a weird source of inspiration, but as soon as you start listening to Junk, you kind of get what he means. ‘Moon Crystal’ sounds almost like the theme to a kid’s TV show, and ‘For the Kids’ features a child monologue that seems like it belongs at the end of an old TV movie: ‘This is our day, Mom / If we believe it, it will happen’. Additionally, many of the album’s song names could be mistaken for old TV shows or video games: ‘Bibi the Dog’, ‘Laser Gun’, ‘Road Blaster’. It’s an album that has been moulded out of Gonzalez’ nostalgia.

It’d be a cheap blow to say that Junk’s title can be seen as a descriptor of the album, but in a way it’s true. Just like the cheesy old TV shows and video games (there is a very Sega Genesis-esque synth about a minute into ‘Do It, Try It’) that M83 have taken inspiration from for this album, there is a sort of disposable, forgettable quality to Junk. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but just means that this isn’t the sort of album you’re going to want to return to again – unlike M83’s last album, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming.

Take lead single ‘Do It, Try It’ for example. Though I didn’t like it much at first, it managed to worm its way into my head. I still don’t think it’s that great a song, but I think it’s a fun one, possessing a certain off-kilter energy that I’ve heard be compared to a jaunty saloon tune. The lyrics support this, being easy to follow (‘Listen to the sound / Of a new tomorrow’) but not really saying anything at all. It’s a song that sums up Junk in a nutshell: fun but hollow.

That’s not to say there aren’t any solid songs here – because there are. The best ones are those where guest vocalist Mai Lan takes over singing duties, like ‘Go!’ and ‘Laser Gun’. Like ‘Do It, Try It’, these songs aren’t particularly deep or original, but they are an incredible amount of fun. ‘Go!’ in particular is great, with its catchy, stuttering vocals, singalong chorus and over the top guitar riffs. Like I said, it’s fun – and when the album focuses on just being that, it succeeds most.

While there’s nothing as good as, say, ‘Midnight City’ or ‘Reunion’ on Junk, there’s still a lot to enjoy. If you take it for what it is, just a bit of fun, and don’t try to pull it apart too much then I’m sure you’ll have a great time listening to it.

 

Essential Songs: ‘Do It, Try It’, ‘Go!’, ‘Laser Gun’.

 

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